This is not the time to be young, white, and male in America,"" says literature professor Kriegel; but if so, it is probably not the time to treat the subject with pretentious poetic irony, either. Kriegel, who once admired Hemingway's style of manhood but now finds it ""embarrassing,"" uses his battle against polio as a child, his coming to terms with paralysis, and his fatherhood as expressions of that ""performance"" motif that characterizes traditional manhood. He speaks of men as sandwiched between the frontier ideals and the anger of women, blacks, and homosexuals, a no-win position; and he sees the Kilroy who settled down to cozy Mid-western domesticity after World War II as the first, unwitting break in the chain. Kriegel, however, is given to such interest-killers as circular prose: ""If we really are nothing else but what we make ourselves, then the man who made himself a man also made legitimate the traditional 'masculine' virtues, the very virtues which ultimately became his embarrassment""; and he is not above blithe generalities (""Both men and women in America today seem to view children as unnecessary"") or extraneous film criticism--John Wayne, Marion Brando, that sort of thing. A talky, unnecessary ego trip.